Jan 29
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Jim Carpenter, Founder, President & CEO of Wild Birds Unlimited

Jim Carpenter, Founder, President & CEO of Wild Birds Unlimited

Everyone wants to know, but how many of us ask, “How did I do?” Getting feedback from your customers, peers or supervisors on how you handled a situation, interaction or conversation can be one of the most productive ways to increase your effectiveness, efficiency and meet your goals.

At Wild Birds Unlimited, we have tried to make asking this question, and acting on the feedback, a foundational part of our culture. But, it can be hard to do. It makes you vulnerable and if you aren’t committed to making positive changes, it can move you out of your comfort zone.

For us, it starts at the top. Our CEO, Jim Carpenter, asks the question all the time. Whether it is how he handled congratulating one of our franchisees on a job well done, how he explained the way we provide leadership training to one of our franchise candidates or how he communicated goals and expectations to one of our proprietary vendors, he follows up by asking, “How did I do?” If the members of a leadership team aren’t prepared to expose themselves to both compliments and constructive criticism, how can we expect those team members who are on the front lines in our retail stores to be willing to receive that same level of feedback?

One of the tools we use to assess how we’re doing with our franchise store owners is an annual Franchisee Satisfaction Survey provided by Franchise Business Review (FBR), a third-party resource. We have participated in the FBR Annual Franchisee Satisfaction Survey for 11 years now. FBR surveys hundreds of franchise brands, using a series of in-depth questions, to compare satisfaction levels across all areas of operations. We are proud to say that Wild Birds Unlimited has ranked in FBR’s Top 10 of all franchises for 11 years running.

We have some of the most satisfied franchisees in the franchise industry! Yet, our pride in our accomplishments cannot keep us from paying serious attention to some of the more critical comments provided through the survey…and sometimes that criticism can be hard to hear. But, the reality is that while we may receive negative feedback, it opens the door for improvement.

If we never ask, “How did I do?” we will never foster a culture of real communication, a culture of commitment, or, in my opinion, a culture of true success.

Nov 15
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Paul Pickett, Vice President of Franchise Development and Judge Reinhold at the Franchise Leadership & Development Conference

Paul Pickett, Vice President of Franchise Development, and Judge Reinhold at the Franchise Leadership & Development Conference

Recently, Wild Birds Unlimited was awarded second place for Best Overall Performance during the exclusive 2013 Franchise Leadership & Development Conference held from October 9 – 11, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. The annual STAR awards (Speaking To And Responding) recognize the top companies in franchise recruitment nationwide.

The award recognizes Wild Birds Unlimited for its phenomenal performance in lead generation, recruitment and best practices in franchising. Franchise Update mystery shoppers posed as qualified prospects to judge how well, and how quickly, franchise sales and development staff replied to inquiries. The secret shoppers evaluated lead generation and recruiting practices for ease of access, response time, and follow-up. In addition, online experts evaluated franchisors’ recruitment websites and their use of social media. 152 companies were scored on telephone response to prospects, and 127 franchisors on recruitment websites and response to website prospects.

The Franchise Development Department looks for prospects that are passionate about nature and backyard bird feeding, energetic, friendly and committed to building a business and delivering the ultimate customer experience. Potential candidates are provided with a step-by-step ‘decision making process’ checklist to use as a guide when investigating the franchise opportunity. In addition, prospects are able to create a sample business plan, speak with several franchisees and visit different locations to decide if the company is a good fit.

“A strong company culture is the selling point of a great brand,” said Paul Pickett, Vice President of Franchise Development. “Our passion-driven culture of communication and support helps ensure that a satisfied and happy group of franchisees are meeting their goals using the resources and support we provide them with. Our franchisee’s commitment to their customers distinguishes them from other retailers because they are passionate about both the hobby of backyard bird feeding and their businesses. We are honored to accept such a prestigious award as it reinforces that our dedication and passion to our franchisees is highly praised and encouraged.”

For more information, please visit www.wbufranchise.com.

Oct 17
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Richard Crossley, Nancy and Jim Carpenter

Richard Crossley, Nancy and Jim Carpenter

Richard Crossley discussing raptors at the Eagle Creek Ornithology Center

Richard Crossley discussing raptors at the Eagle Creek Ornithology Center

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Last week Nancy and I, along with our staff at the Wild Birds Unlimited of Indianapolis store, were honored to co-host a fund raiser for the Birds of Prey program at the Eagle Creek Ornithology Center. For a donation, attendees enjoyed a raptor identification program and hike with the acclaimed birder Richard Crossley. Richard Crossley is an internationally acclaimed birder, award winning author and photographer. Attendees also received their choice of Crossley’s Guide to Raptors or Crossley’s Guide to Eastern Birds. We raised $1,500 for the program.

Richard also gave a presentation and had a book signing at the Wild Birds Unlimited store on 82nd. St. in Indianapolis. As you can see in the photos, everyone had a wonderful time.

Oct 11
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Rascal the Raccoon with a White-breasted Nuthatch

Rascal the Raccoon with a White-breasted Nuthatch


Are you curious about how we create our Seed Cylinder Characters like Rascal the Raccoon, Hoot the Owl, Buttons the Snowman or Preston the Penguin?

First I look for ideas that have an “it’s so cute, I’ve got to have one” response. Then I go through a series of questions to determine if the idea can actually be turned into a bird food – what bird seed and food should be used, would it attract birds and could they eat it, and is the price something I believe customers are willing to pay.

We start with a picture that I find or draw, and then we go through multiple versions to achieve the overall look, cost and appeals to the birds. With Rascal the Raccoon, our newest character, it began with this picture. We made many adjustments along the way to cut costs and to achieve the cute factor.

Initial character or Rascal

Initial character or Rascal

There is a lot of hand decorating that goes into making our Seed Cylinder Characters. When you make a character out of bird seed, you lose a lot of detail and have limitations regarding which seed and food colors are natural. We don’t color our bird seed. We choose seeds, fruit, nuts, etc. whose natural color will give us not only the look we want, but that the birds will eat. This limits our options quite a bit.

Rascal Prototype

Rascal Prototype

Final Rascal the Raccoon Bird Seed Cylinder

Final Rascal the Raccoon Bird Seed Cylinder

We test the new food in various areas throughout North America to make sure the birds in different geographic regions like it. At home, I have a lot of fun with my son checking what body parts the birds have eaten while we’re at work and school.

Once the character is complete, we work on naming and packaging. We get photography and video and introduce the new character to our storeowners, who then order them to sell to you.

I love feeding the birds and coming up with new ways that enhance your enjoyment of your birds.

We hope you find Rascal as adorable as we do and that you and your birds will enjoy him or one of his friends (Hoot the Owl, Preston the Penguin, Buttons the Snowman). Customers tell us they love to give these characters as gifts, especially to the person who already has everything.

Oct 02
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2010-1

A few weeks ago it was my distinct honor to be one of the presenters and field trip leaders at the 2013 Midwest Birding Symposium in Lakeside, Ohio, on the south shore of Lake Erie.

For hundreds of bird watchers, this gathering is a highlight of their birding year as the weekend is chocked full of speakers, workshops, a Birder’s Marketplace and some of the best fall birding opportunities in the Midwest.

But don’t think that the only attendees where crusty old birders like me. On the contrary, the largest majority was made up of people fairly new to the world of birding, and that’s what made it so much fun!

Time after time I was moved by the joy and excitement of these novice birders.

Like Christy, who while on an early morning bird hike literally jumped for joy when she found and indentified a male American Redstart all by herself. It was a outpouring of pure delight and discovery.

Or the mother from Maryland and the daughter from Colorado who I sat with at lunch. They had each driven from their respective states to meet up at the symposium. They wanted to see if this birding thing was really all that it is cracked up to be. We shared an hour of non-stop conversation about birds, birding apps and birding destinations around the country. They were obviously already hooked. Birding – what a cool way for them to stay close despite the large geographic distance between them.

And then there was the person just three weeks out from hip replacement surgery. With the encouragement of her doctor, and the support of her posse of friends, she had made the last minute decision to attend the symposium. Obviously limited in her endurance and movement, most of her efforts were spent attending workshops and presentations. At least that was until her friends took her and her wheel chair to nearby marsh with a boardwalk trail. The look on her face after a glorious morning of birding was not to be missed; and just what the doctor ordered!

Birds are cool and so are birdwatchers; they are both fun to be around and watch. I am thankful for the joy they bring to my world.

My special thanks to the folks at the Midwest Birding Symposium for letting me be a part of the fun again this year.

Jul 18
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Wild Birds Unlimited Eliminator Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder

Wild Birds Unlimited Eliminator Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder

The other night, I was sitting on our screened porch with a group of friends, catching up and, of course, watching the birds at the feeders outside. One of my friends asked me about a specific feeder that happens to be exclusive to the Wild Birds Unlimited franchise system and how we came up with the design. I told him that it had to be good for the birds, good for our retail customers and good for our franchisees. His reply was “Wow…that is really complicated…Wild Birds Unlimited really has three different sets of customers to keep happy! How do you make that happen?”

It struck me that while most franchise systems don’t have the complication of three customer bases, we all have at least two different and distinct customer bases: our franchisees and the end users of the franchisees’ services… the end consumer. My answer to my friends question was “it really isn’t all that complicated when you make the commitment to be true to the brand and stick to that commitment in all of your decisions”.

Now, just because it isn’t “complicated” doesn’t mean that it isn’t “complex”.

In my opinion, one of the roles of a franchisor is to formulate and deliver easy to implement best practices that benefit the brand. This means, taking my bird feeder conversation as an example, that this new product had to be designed include features and benefits that appealed to all three of our ultimate customer bases. It had to “work for the birds” which meant that the perch sizes, seed flow and squirrel resistant features (in this case) had to be tested and perfected before the release, it had to ”work for the retail customer”, which meant that that it have an appropriate price-point, be visually attractive, fit a specific customer-need and it had to “work for our franchisees”, which meant that it had to have an appropriate margin, be easy to display, fit into our merchandise mix strategy and come with all of the appropriate marketing collateral and staff training materials. It sounds, and is, complex…but it’s not complicated.

The way that we accomplish this goal of serving all of our customers at the same time here at Wild Birds Unlimited is to constantly focus on that umbrella customer-the Wild Birds Unlimited brand- using our Mission of “We Bring People and Nature Together…and we do it with Excellence” as a filter for making all of our decisions. That focus on the brand and all of the customers that the brand serves is the only way to ensure that your brand is sustainable, always growing and exceeding the expectations of all of its customers.

Jul 12
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Ft. Harrison, Indiana Birding Trip during the Wild Birds Unlimited Enterprise Leadership Conference

Ft. Harrison, Indiana Birding Trip during the Wild Birds Unlimited Enterprise Leadership Conference

Wild Birds Unlimited storeowners gathered in Indianapolis this year at the end of June for the annual Enterprise Leadership Conference. They came to refresh and reenergize themselves and learn about new innovations for their staff and stores. But before they got down to some serious work, some of them arrived a day early to play.

The day before the conference 50 WBU storeowners joined us for a relaxing morning of connecting with nature by bird watching at Fort Harrison State Park. Leading the trip with me was my coworker and fellow blogger, John Schaust, and a local birder and buddy of ours, Rob Ripma of NuttyBirder.com.

We saw a lot of birds and, as you can imagine with it being early-summer, a number of them were juvenile birds chasing their parents begging for food.

One of the biggest highlights was the Cerulean Warbler. Everyone got to see it! Which is an amazing feat for 50 people birding at the same time.

The Cerulean is a beautiful, sky-blue and white warbler that breeds in the woods of the Eastern US and Canada. It is of special conservation concern due to its overall small population size and is on the watch list to see if it may need to be placed on the endangered species list.

Other highlights included a Ruby-throated Hummingbird mom sitting on her nest as well as a Baltimore Oriole nest where mom and dad were bringing food to the nestlings.

Everyone had a fabulous time connecting with nature. Have you seen any fun bird activity lately?

May 10
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Novato-CA-2010-108

Recently Paul Pickett, Vice President of Franchise Development and Ellen Davis, Owner of the Franklin, MA store spoke with Marty McDermott, President of Franchise Interview on his radio show. Paul & Ellen explain that having a passion for the birds and nature is core to our business. Our Franchise Support Center can teach you the best practices for running a specialty retail store and will support you in your entrepreneurial efforts to own your own business. Want to own your own Wild Birds Unlimited store, click here.

Listen to the radio interview to understand what goes into running a Wild Birds Unlimited store and how we support our franchisees in our mission to bring people and nature together.

Apr 16
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Immature Female Rufous Hummingbird

Immature Female Rufous Hummingbird

WBU High Perch Hummingbird Feeder

WBU High Perch Hummingbird Feeder

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Did you ever wonder how a hummingbird will show up in your yard and check out the hummingbird feeder or hanging nectar plant that was there last year but hasn’t been put out yet this year? How do the birds know? It’s almost like they remember the nectar-rich food source. It is amazing that a bird would remember, especially one with the brain the size of a BB. Consider what a hummingbird does each year. They migrate great distances going south to winter in southern Mexico and northern Panama. They travel as far north as Alaska and Canada for breeding. Up to a 2,500 mile trip one way. An impressive feat performed by such a small-brained bird weighing about one penny. Bird banding records show many hummingbirds pass through the same yards, on the same day, year after year. Males return to stake claim on the same territory as the previous year. Females return to the same tree for nesting and sometimes re-use last year’s nest. One study found a female reused her nest for five years in a row. It is amazing how the smallest bird in the world can be so formidable with its memory and come back to feed from a nectar feeder it remembers from last year.

Hang your hummingbird feeders now and keep the nectar fresh. Those amazing jewels of nature are migrating back for the summer.

Jan 23
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With the New Year comes a new season of buying trade shows for the Purchasing Department at Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) and our franchise store owners. Divide and conquer is our strategy. Staff and store owners collaborate to attend a variety of shows, review hundreds of products and merchandise lines. We look for what we think you are going to love and can enhance your enjoyment of your home, backyard and bird feeding hobby.

While show season is in full swing, here are some early trends we are seeing and might just be bringing to a Wild Birds Unlimited near you.

Neon colors look to have staying power for the season; however, the official Pantone color for 2013 is Emerald. It is a rich, bold color that conveys luxury, think emerald ring, as well as representing growth, re-birth and healing.

What we are most excited to see… owls are EVERYWHERE! This is part of an evolving trend which emerged several years ago with designers from clothing and jewelry to home interiors and furniture all incorporating birds. Could this be the year of the owl? Have you tried our Hoot the Owl bird seed cylinder? You could be trendy and didn’t even know it!

Another trend on our radar is miniature gardens. Like you, more and more people want to enjoy the outdoors and feel connected to nature. Many will be able to do this with a miniature garden that they can incorporate into their living space, deck or patio. See the photos above for ideas and inspiration.

We would love to hear your thoughts on these trends. What products would you like to see in your local Wild Birds Unlimited? Share your thoughts and ideas.

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